Ivo Vegter
Ivo Vegter

In defence of colonialism

Prompted by the debate that David Bullard tried — but probably failed — to stir (as I argued on my own blog), I wrote a short opinion on colonialism, which I reckon is worth posting separately. Thanks to Dawn for the comment that prompted this thought.

Global trade routes (source unknown, click for large version)My own view on colonialism is that it was a logical development in a world that had until then been isolationist and mercantilist. At the time, trade with enemies or foreign countries was often embargoed, subject to high tariffs and duties, or simply forbidden. Establishing friendly trading colonies was a necessary step on the way to building global trade.

Though deeply marred by illiberal practices such as corruption, annexation, slavery and war, such practices do not negate the mutual benefits of trade expansion, which was the primary purpose of colonial expansion by the major economic powers. One could argue that some (though far from all) colonial trade was involuntary, and that some colonialists did not respect the property or political rights of indigenous peoples. As much as this was the case, I’d agree that an honest case for “mutual benefit” cannot be made, but then, as much as this was the case, the trade wasn’t free at the time.

Global trade, post-colonial (links to source)These are among the reasons that colonialism would always have to be superseded, and why it couldn’t be anything other than a step towards a freer, more modern world in which the benefits of trade can be enjoyed by all its citizens.

However, that it did expand the world’s horizons and build the world’s institutions to a level at which capital could be more efficiently deployed and resources more efficiently harnessed is hard to dispute. Without the expanded production base created by growing trade, I doubt we could have supported the unprecedented population growth of the 20th century. In fact, I doubt that growth — and the concomitant growth in global prosperity and quality of life indicators — would even have been possible without growing global trade.

That we’re in a better world now than under a colonial trading system is indisputable. The advance of liberty is always an improvement in society, as is the growing sophistication of governments, markets and the institutional structures that support it.

That a colonial trading system was a useful step on the way to today’s increasingly free and prosperous world is perhaps more controversial, and whether its benefits exceeded its obvious costs is less immediately clear. But it’s a debate worth having, if only so that in focusing our efforts on an increasingly free and prosperous future, we can learn valid lessons from our less free and prosperous past.

(First published on my own blog.)

  • amused reader

    @ Ivo

    I admire much of your writing, but this is wet. A complete cop out, a lesson in fence sitting if i have ever seen one. I do not argue that trade was a part of colonialism, but it is hardly the contentious part.

    Some would argue that the colonists stole the land, enslaved the people (economically or literally), destroyed the borders and cultures that pre-dated it, and caused the problems that Africa faces today.

    Other would argue that Colonialism lifted the African people out of the dark ages, brought technological advances, delivered health and education and an increase in prosperity.

    Some argue that Africa would be better if it had never been colonised, other argue it would be better now if it still were colonised.

    So come on, get off the fence. If you don’t want to deal with the contentious facts, don’t write the article.

  • Claire

    “…global prosperity and quality of life…”
    For whom exactly?

    I’m no expert on this so get your pinch of salt ready.

    Compare the quality of life of the indigenous peoples of the various colonised countries then and now. The North and South American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, the African Tribes – they all lived well-rounded, relatively comfortable, maybe even fulfilled lives before the colonists arrived and mostly just abused and slaughtered them. Don’t try and tell me that countries like Britain and Spain were interested in “mutual” trade arrangements. That’s a joke.

    Now link this quality of life question to the Happiness and Fulfillment debate in Bert’s blog where it has been acknowledged that happiness and material success are unrelated, and I think one could argue that the introduction of western-style trade into colonised countries did little to improve the quality of life of the existing inhabitants. It certainly improved that of the colonisers though.
    Colonialism benefitted few at the expense of many.

    Do you think the people living in the rat-infested shacks in crime-ridden areas like Alexandra, the Cape Flats and Mdantsane would rather live there than in a mud hut on an open hillside with their cows and crops? I don’t know. But I know which I would prefer.

  • Owen

    Are you not trying to put a rosy face on ‘rape, pillage and plunder’?

    Colonialists set out to conquer new lands and thereby get new wealth and power. They had no vision about global markets and good governance.

    Our conquest of space is now driven by a desire to get new knowledge and so wealth, not becasue we want to help some other being or create a galatic market.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @amused reader: It’s impossible to say whether it would have been better if it had never been colonised. My only argument is that the record of colonialism is mixed. Only by over-simplifying this complex history can one make a rhetorical point saying “it was good” or “it was bad”.

    @Claire: For the vast majority of people, rich and poor. You seem to believe the myth of the “noble savage”, who lived a contented life in harmony with nature, when it would be closer to the truth to picture pre-modern peoples, of all nations, as living short and brutish lives, in constant battle with the elements, starvation, disease and each other.

    Other than happiness, for which we lack a statistical record, pick your quality of life measure. Chances are that it has improved, for almost all people, at all living standard levels, across the globe. No matter who you are, chances are that you live a longer, healthier, better-fed, and more prosperous life, with more opportunity, more choices, more freedom and more education, than your ancestors did, despite the fact that there are many times more people on earth competing for space and resources.

    The poor world does lag the rich world, by half a century or so depending on which measure you choose to consider, but again, no matter what quality of life measure you choose, the same upward trends are visible in both.

    That’s why leftwing activists rely on curious measures like the Gini coefficient, instead of pointing to evidence that poverty is getting worse, or that the numbers of people in poverty are increasing. Because there is no such evidence. And even growing inequality is a myth in general terms: in the last 40 years, for example, the ratio between the top and bottom quintiles of income earners has decreased from 18 to 12.

    Is everything rosy? Far from it. But is the condition of humanity getting worse? No, it’s not. Despite the perception of every generation ever that theirs is the most depressing time ever, and their age is unquestionably nearing the end of the world.

    So it seems odd to blame this or that group in history for only making the world a worse place.

    @ Owen: I concede. The conquest of space is not motivated by the desire to trade with extra-terrestrials.

  • http://pixelplexus.co.za/blog AndreSC

    @Ivo
    “But is the condition of humanity getting worse? No, it’s not.” all the points are very interesting, but in the larger picture of ecological and environmental stability etc. can we really say that the condition of humanity getting better?
    I agree with the premise that improvements sophistication is generally a good thing, but let’s not forget that humanity’s fate might simply be get ting a bit better before it gets a whole lot worse.

  • Durban Poison

    This is a poor attempt to get Ronald Suresh Roberts crawling out the woodwork!

  • Consulting Engineer

    @Claire

    Before colonialism life was often brutal, uncomfortable and usually short. Disease, infant mortality, starvation, pestilence etc.

    The Mfecane slaughtered millions and depopulated southern africa. Only after the arrival of white colonialism did populations expand due to medicines, diet and an end to tribal conflict.

  • Consulting Engineer

    It is only in modern africa that colonialism is made a scapegoat. Africa prospered under colonialism.

    Places like India, Malaya, singapore, Hong Kong etc all benefitted from colonialism.

    It is only in africa where the benefits brought from european colonialism were not exploited after independance. Now why would that be?

  • BenzoL

    This not a real debate but an expression of different thoughts about “what” would have become of Africa if “colonialism” had not happened some 5-300 years ago? I have another one like that: ” what” would have become of England if the “Romans” had not occupied it some 200 years ago? The answer to the Africa question could be: “let’s do it all over again”: Reverse all changes brought about by colonialism, send all whites out of the continent, bring all blacks back from around the world and let’s sit and wait. :-))

  • http://www.nickvanderleek.com Nick

    I think the burning issue is this:
    at the time that ships arrived at the Cape, the technology was ahead of the local technology.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @AndreSC: As I said, every generation ever thinks theirs is not only heading for, but causing, the apocalypse. I don’t share that view. I think the environment is a complex but resilient and stable system, that has coped with a lot more evolutionary pressure than we’re adding. And I think people, when left to their own devices (as opposed to being ruled by tyrants) are pretty good at dealing with the ups and downs of change. But that wasn’t the point: the point is whether colonialism, for all its obvious faults, had historical benefits (just as, for example, feudalism for all its obvious faults had its place in the history of human development and progress).

    @DP: Hey man, that’d be a bummer.

  • Bilal

    I still get amazed at the level of thinking that exist within westerners. I get really pained if there is still any soul that wants to justify colonialism. that was a system that was used to plunder the colonised. the colonisers became filthy rich and the colonised became poorer and the trend continues.
    Its interesting that someone can talk about harnessing some resources- you should rather talk of harvesting resources. Non of the colonisers ever set up big processing plants in Africa, none. If you can talk of any big processing plant that was set up by the colonisers you ll have justified any argument. None of the colonisers ever constructed a big dam for the benefit of the colonised. if colonialism ever iproved any trade in the world it was trade that was at the expense of the colonised.nobody can show me the benefit that any of the colonialists brought to africa.]
    Talk of at least construction of infrastructure except for the railway line which was basically done to transport raw material to Europe.
    I am still looking on as the same mentality of Africa cannot develop without the intervention of Europe being peddled.I think we have to respect the liberties of everyone , as long as we know that that liberty ends where people may feel their toes are being stepped on.
    in this case i wish the Europeans would rather exercise restraint when debating this colonialism issues lest Africans start feeling belittled. I once more want all Africans to be discerning, and view with suspicion any outsider who gets too involved to an extent of wanting to influence policy in africa to funding politicians. these people or organisations are only interested in destabilising Africa with the intention of harvesting resources. I dont want to accuse anybody who still feel colonialism had any merits of racism. In fact we Africans still deserve Apology for the criminal conduct that was colonialism.

  • amused reader

    @ Bilal

    You’ll never get an apology out of me.

    During that period of human history, and at every other up until our present ‘enlightened times’ conquering was the name of the game. We white Europeans did it, you black Africans did it. You killed more of your own than we ever did, and the treatment of black Africans, in terms of history, was actually excellent, and far better than black people treated other black tribes over who they conquered.

    White European civilisation only took over because it was so much more advanced than that of the indigenous population. Had it not been for liberalism black African culture would have been assimilated into European culture, and would be a lot better of in any measurable way you may wish to quantify.

    It is not the facts that are at issue, under colonialism Africans lived longer, were healthier, better educated, had better nutrition than they were under the previous African regime or the following African regime.

    The question is whether you are willing to accept the facts as they stand, or do your personal emotions and politics mean that you must dismiss the facts, and arrive on a position based on sentiment rather than reality?

    That was the problem with Bullard, he got to close to the truth, and the truth can hurt.

    Colonialisation is over, there can be no going back, but face the facts as they stand and we will have a better chance of building a brighter future for us all.

  • Chipo

    @ IVO you ROCK!!

  • BenzoL

    @ Bilal You have my sincere apologies on behalf of my great great great great……cousin, who was the kitchen boy on the ship that brought Jan van Riebeeck and the Oost Indiese Comp. to South Africa. I very much apologise for the fact that the Dutch asked the British to look after the Cape while the Dutch were busy trying to get rid of the French who occupied their country. Should I apologise for the Dutch to try and limit British expansion in SA in some very bloody wars.
    I hope that in 300 years time, the children of current SA criminals will have the courage to apologise for murdering, raping and mugging law abiding Suth Africans.
    I am actually sick and tired of these meek requests for meaningless apologies doing the global rounds.
    Nobody can ever apologise for the history of his nation and actually mean it.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @Bilal: You make a lot of sweeping assumptions, most of which are, I’m afraid, mistaken.

    Let’s start with the most obvious: asking whether colonialism had benefits as well as drawbacks is not the same as asking whether Africans could not have developed without the intervention of Europe. I happen to think (unlike many Africans, it appears) that they are just as much able to work, trade, invent and profit as anyone else. I see productivity and free trade and hard work wherever I go in the world, no matter what the local race or nationality, and no matter how rich or poor they are. I see no reason to consider any one group less able than another. Skills and resources may be fluid, which may give one party a temporary competitive advantage over another. Some countries may have less developed supporting institutions of law and commerce, or suffer under oppressive, corrupt or isolationist regimes, but there’s nothing that makes them inherently less able to succeed and prosper. And if Africans had developed without the involvement of Europe, they’d find they’d need Europe to trade with, just as they do today, and just as developing countries increasingly trade among each other, rather than just with the traditional economic powerhouses of the West.

    Second, asking whether colonialism had benefits as well as drawbacks does not attempt to ignore the drawbacks. Saying so says more about your “level of thinking” than mine, I’m afraid. I explicitly noted that colonialism was often deeply marred by mercenary and unjust practices, and that it had to end for that reason, no matter what benefits it might have had. Don’t such caveats deserve more than simply being ignored to fit your knee-jerk response?

    Third, much of the original aim of colonialism was trading: simple bartering of one set of goods or services for another. If the locals didn’t like it, they didn’t accept the deal, or held out for more. If they wanted to claim exclusive contracts, they did so. If they required political concessions or military assistance or in-country restrictions on foreign nationals, they imposed them. Assuming that all colonial trade was exploitative is an unjustifiable over-generalisation. I doubt that it’s true even in a majority of cases. Besides, exploitation happened both ways. The colonists bought lots of stuff that was pretty valueless to those they bought from. Who profited from that deal? Wrong. Not just those who swindled valuable trade goods out of the colonists in return for stuff they considered worthless or had in abundance. Both sides profited. This is a simple economic principle that is almost always overlooked in discussing economic history. Where two parties enter into a voluntary deal you can’t claim that it was always “at the expense of” one party or the other. If it was, they wouldn’t have agreed. Therefore, that could only have happened under conditions of unfree trade — i.e. theft, extortion, or government regulation — and I’m not convinced that this was universally the case with colonial trade. Even if the alternative to selling stuff to the local colonists was not selling stuff at all, it’s still perfectly free trade. And again, by saying this I don’t mean to ignore or condone cases of unfree trade, or worse.

    Fourth, I would dispute that colonialism was the cause of poverty. Even if it did, that “trend” certainly does not continue. I pointed this out in my previous response, and could cite specific statistics on specific quality of life indicators to show that almost all have been steadily improving ever since we started measuring most of these things. That you think the colonised continue getting poorer undermines any credibility your claim that colonialism caused poverty might have had.

    Perhaps you, like Claire, make the mistake of romanticising some imagined ideal of a pre-colonial existence, much like many Europeans idealise a pre-modern life. I have news for those who believe this: In this idyllic past, most people weren’t noble lords or ladies, or wealthy chieftains or honoured warriors, or learned scholars or religious leaders. Those people could write, or had time to draw, unlike the vast majority, who were pretty much dirt poor and illiterate. They died young, doing backbreaking work for a pittance and living in rickety houses and filthy streets. They worked or fought or even lived at the pleasure of their chiefs or lords, and did not have the ability or the time or the inclination to write pretty poems about how luscious the lands were and how fair the maidens. Or vice versa. And there was no middle class. That goes for both most historical societies, both white and black.

    Five, a great deal of infrastructure was created by colonial powers in the colonies. Again, specific cases differ vastly, from very little development and a lot of simple resource harvesting in, say, the Belgian Congo and extensive slave usage on the Spanish Main, to a great deal of infrastructure investment and institutional development in India and other (often British) colonies.

    Perhaps Africans do deserve apologies for some specific abuses committed in the name of colonialism. However, it’s a minefield of who did what and when and who did what back, and how long before we call it quits and so on. I’m Dutch. I have legitimate grievances for historical abuses by the British, the Germans, the French and the Spanish, and at times all of them at the same time. Not in some vague ways, either. I can point to specific incidents and I know what some of my ancestors went through in some detail. But you don’t hear me claiming reparations for wars and occupation and dispossession and piracy and oppression and torture and all the other entertaining parts of the history books that resulted in the country we know today. The Arabs were more commonly slave owners than anyone else. Until the 19th century, they raided English and American shipping, and were even known to launch raids on the English countryside to procure strong young lads and fresh young lassies for the slave market. You don’t hear the Queen demanding reparations from Morocco, do you?

    These demands for apologies play on guilt, promote a victim mentality, and is really no more sophisticated, intellectually, than a couple of toddlers fighting over who hit who first. Someone should just shut the brats up and let them get on with life.

    As I admitted right at the start, there was a lot of illiberal abuse, and some colonists (both as individuals and as countries) were worse than others. But that doesn’t answer the point, which is whether colonialism in general and all colonists individually deserve blanket condemnation. Would you, for example, condemn all black tribal leaders for the rapacious wars of a few? Would you condemn all medieval lords for the pauperism of feudal Europe? Would you condemn all Japanese emperors for the conquests and atrocities committed against China? Would you condemn the Roman Empire as a whole for the expansionism of some emperors, the moral decay of some others, and the bloody circuses held for popular entertainment? Would you say their roads and aqueducts and laws had no value and were nothing but a stain on history? Would you say arguing otherwise belittles other nations, because it amounts to a claim that they couldn’t get ahead without the intervention of the Romans? Of course not.

    Your one-sided, over-generalised and simplistic view of the history of colonialism, in which colonialism was exclusively a negative force of history, is no less flawed than those who think the British Empire was God’s gift to the world, who whitewash the offenses and abuses, and who wish it were still with us. Like you, I’ll stop short of accusing you of implicit racism in viewing all actions by Europeans during the colonial era as unworthy of any merit whatsoever.

  • Icarus

    The whole of early human history is about one or another people invading and colonising another. Its as inevitable as war. Either the invaders take over and take root, or they leave, possibly leaving buildings, language roots, ideas, or stories behind which become woven into the woof of the remaining peoples memory or lore.

    Of course its a lot more difficult, or bloody, these days – ask the Iraquis. But should a snap ice age take hold of the northern dont doubt they’ll move South. Should the the South become inhabitable due to water shortage and persistent drought, don’t doubt they shall try move to greener pastures.

    The Lion King had it right – the circle of life…

  • amused reader

    @ Ivo

    Bilal got you off the fence, You were steaming……. and it was grrrrreat!!!

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Why thank you, Chipo. Just this morning, my mother said the same thing. That is coincidence, isn’t it?

  • BenzoL

    Thanks Ivo. I don’t have the time and inclination to go deeper into this apology crap. When I do something wrong, I admit and apologise there and than or as soon as possible thereafter. When I am dead, nobody has to apologise for me for anything. If the whole world starts apologising for the history they created, the world will be busy for the next umptie millennia and starve in the meantime. I hope our African brothers can collectively come of their high horses and start working for a prosperous continent instead of feeling sorry for themselves.

  • Consulting Engineer

    @Ivo and amused reader

    Great posts julle.

  • Tim de Villiers

    This is a very touchy subject that you have raised, and it is difficult to give a good answer as to whether colonialism has had a positive or negative influence overall. The only country in sub-Saharan Africa that was never colonised is Ethiopia. It has had more than its share of problems, which suggests that we cannot blame colonialism for all of Africa’s ills.

    “Colonialism” is a very broad term. Contrast the approach of Livingstone, who approached the Africans on their terms, and tried to stimulate legitimate trade in order to stop the slave trade, with the approach of Rhodes, who deceived the Africans into signing away their rights. Colonialism of some sort might have been inevitable. But the implementation thereof was often deeply flawed in that it suppressed the African people rather than treating them as equal trading partners.

  • Oldfox

    @Ivo,

    “from very little development and a lot of simple resource harvesting in, say, the Belgian Congo”

    FYI:
    The Belgians invested $3.4 billion in Congo prior to independence in 1960.
    No other colony had better labour conditions, health facilities or primary education. Catholic missions provided primary education to 56% of the population. The first nuclear reactor in Africa, was in Belgian Congo.

  • Oldfox

    @Ivo,

    You’re wrong on this one:” My own view on colonialism is that it was a logical development in a world that had until then been isolationist…”

    Trade between and within continents of the Old World (Africa, Europe, Asia incl India and China) occured around a thousand years before European colonialism began in the late 15th century.
    The Phoenecians traded with what is presently Senegal from around 400 BC. The Dravidians (Tamils today) from India claim to have traded with Africa, mainly for minerals, around 3000 years ago.

    China had significant trade with the rest of the Old World already during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) and there were 25 000 foreigners living in the Tang capital, Chang’an (modern Xi’an)

    European colonialism began when Portugal, Spain and Holland (followed later by France, Britain) using advances in navigation, gunpowder and cannon (both invented by the Chinese) were able to travel enormous distances and conquer even numerically stronger native forces.

  • Oldfox

    To all those who believe colonialism was benign and benevolent:-

    If we are to remember the Holocaust and Stalin’s and Mao’s terrible excesses, then we should not forget the worst horrors of the colonial era, and we should not trivialize them, or say that because colonialism brought certain benefits, lets turn a blind eye to the large scale colonial era horrors.
    I’ll list 3 of the worst.

    Potosi.
    The Spanish forced mostly native Indian and some African slaves to work in the Cerro Rico silver mines at Potosi, Bolivia , where and estimated 8 million slave miners died between 1546 and 1825. “Eighty per cent of the male population of the 16 provinces of the viceroyalty of Peru died in these conditions” in Cerro Rico.
    Many Indian women killed their sons before they were old enough to be sent off to Potosi.
    45,000 tons of pure silver were mined from Cerro Rico from 1556 to 1783. Much of Europe’s splendour of the 16th – 18th centuries was built upon the blood and tears of the slave Potosi miners.

    Leopold’s Congo
    Congo had contact with Europeans centuries before the Leopold era. The first Congolese person to study in Europe returned in 1491 and opened a school in Congo.
    The horrors of Congo were before it became a Belgian Colony – it was the personal property of King Leopold II, during the period 1885 – 1908.
    Between 5 and 15 million Congolese were murdered, or died of starvation.

    “Forced labour, hostages, slave chains, starving porters, burned villages, paramilitary company ‘sentries’, and the chicotte were the order of the day. [The chicotte was a vicous whip made out of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged cork-screw strip. It was applied to bare buttocks, and left permanent scars. Twenty strokes of it sent victims into unconsciousness; and a 100 or more strokes were often fatal. The chicotte was freely used by both Leopold’s men and the French].”
    Women and girls were gang raped in front of their families. In one documented case, a female refused to be gang raped, so she was whipped to death with the chicotte.
    Tens of thousands of Congolese had their hands chopped off – men, women, boys, girls.

    Herero Genocide
    ‘Within the German boundaries every Herero, whether found with or without a rifle, with or without cattle, shall be shot… Signed: The Great General of the Mighty Kaiser, von Trotha.’
    “In case everything was not clear, an addendum specified: ‘No male prisoners will be taken.”
    By the time von Trotha’s murderous hordes had finished their job in 1906, fewer than 20,000 of the 80,000 Hereros who lived in Namibia in 1903 remained.
    “The others [more than 60,000 of them]”, writes Hochschild, “had been driven into the desert to die of thirst (the Germans poisoned the waterholes), were shot, or – to economise on bullets – bayoneted or clubbed to death with rifle stocks.”
    Many German soldiers wanted to take home trophies from the genocide, so they forced Herero women to boil the decapitated heads of slain Herero males and scrape the flesh off the skulls.

  • Oldfox

    Many of you say black Aficans never invented the wheel, or developed their own writing.

    The natives from the British isles never invented the wheel either. As far as I know, they did not invent their own system of writing either.
    Likewise, the Japanese neither invented the wheel, nor invented a system of writing.
    The Europeans did not invent the zero, which is fundamental to mathematics.

    Contact between nations and different ethnic groups has led to an exchange of knowledge and ideas, and this has benefitted many of us, around the globe. For example, cataract and plastic surgery was pioneered in India 2700 years ago.

    The mobile phone is revolutionizing black Africa today. Some of the pioneers in exploiting cellular technology, are black Africans. The late Rwandan-born telecommunications mogul Miko Rwayitare has been called the father of mobile telecommunications in Africa – he built Africa’s first mobile phone network in Kinshasa in 1987.
    Nigeria will probably soon overtake SA in pioneering new mobile applications.
    The notion that black Africa is not developing because blacks are too engrossed in past injustices is fallacious.

    Some people however have not benefitted, or have benefitted very little, from this exchange of ideas and scientific progress between nations.
    Here I would include the 250 million Dalits in the Indian subcontinent, 160 million of whom live in India. The 100000 or so Egyptian females who undergo FGM every year. The Australian Aborigines, and the native Indians in the USA and Canada who live on reserves. The last 3 aboriginal peoples, specifically those in the reserves, are arguably worse off now than before they made contact with the European colonists.

  • http://dionysusstoned.red.m2014.net dionysusstoned

    there is a beautiful image in Walter Benjamin’s ‘Theses on the philosophy of history’ that i think is appropriate here:
    —A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. ( ix 249). —

    what amazes me is how anyone would want to be on the side of history, that in the name of modernity and progress, leads from colonialism to the free market. eish!

  • Jim

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear comments like, we certainly stuffed that up, we could have made better decisions on that, yes people voting is supposed to lead to an elected conclusion, 200 000% inflation is the result of a badly managed economy, we cannot have criminals in leadership positions etc from Africans. Instead all we hear is the colonials are to blame for this, you must apologise for that, white people have no right to criticise and are in denial, Robert Mugabe is a brother wronged by Brown etc. Words like spineless, non-accountable, morally corrupt, denial readily spring to mind. Really Africans need to dry their eyes and try make a success of something, as hard as that seems because some application and fortiutude may be required….

  • Brent

    All those enormous chips (logs) flying off all those vain and insecure shoulders. Where is the debate of ideas, cut and thrust of OPEN minds in combat?

    When it all comes down to the bottom line can anyone answer this question with honesty and satisfaction: ‘how did you help SA, were you part of the solution or part of the problem?’

    A weary Brent

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @Tim: I agree, and that’s my point. The history of colonialism was complex, differed widely, and developed over several centuries. Dismissing it as purely negative (or purely positive) is simplistic and often fals.

    @Oldfox: I may indeed be wrong on Belgium and the Congo. I’m less familiar with its history than with most other colonial history, so probably shouldn’t have picked the example off the top of my head. I’m probably confusing Belgian Congo with Leopold’s Congo. If so, I stand corrected, and would pick another example where resource harvesting and conquest was more important than building institutions and developing trade. Spanish South America springs to mind (as I see it does in your response), contrasted with, say, India.

    On trade, sure it happened before colonialism, but it was often restricted by political dictat. The rise of colonialism was, however, about expanding trade links and establishing reliable, ongoing relationships with countries and territories that could be considered friendly. Even then, ships often departed on trading missions, permitted to trade with another colonial power, only to return to find their countries at war and trade considered treason.

    Besides, the motive of simply conquering and subjugating foreign natives strikes me as a rather pointless exercise; why would anyone want to risk blood and treasure for that?

    Most importantly, however, I must reiterate that I do not turn a blind eye to anything. From the start, I cite the downsides of colonialism. I note that its history has been mixed, and that it was often “deeply marred by illiberal practices such as corruption, annexation, slavery and war”. It may be a useful rhetorical technique to accuse me of ignoring such things when I explicitly do not do so, but I hardly think it is a fair point. Pointing to counter-examples where colonialism has been undeniably brutal and unjust also says nothing about the claim that in many ex-colonies, colonialism also had substantial benefits, despite the problems that would, in the face of advancing freedom and prosperity lead to its inevitable end.

    I do, however, agree with your pointing out the development of knowledge and trade everywhere, and particularly outside Europe. Another thing I’ll reiterate: I see no reason to claim Africans are any different from Europeans or Asians in their capacity for work, invention, productivity and trade, and I certainly don’t make such a claim. Just like I wouldn’t conclude, when one company invents something or conquers a market or scores some other competitive victory over another, that the other company is therefore useless or inferior or would have been incapable of the same.

    That isn’t a perfect parallel, but I hope you get the point: there is no disparagement, explicit or implied, in the claim that colonialism had benefits, and that for all its flaws and errors and cruel injustices, it was an important part of human history and human progress towards a more free, more prosperous world. The same can be said for feudalism, the Roman Empire, the Chinese dynasties, and most other eras in history. Most left a positive legacy in the end, though none were unquestionably and uniformly ideal.

  • amused reader

    @ Oldfox

    Yet again you focus on the detail, at the expense of the big picture.

    Firstly, I must say as a Brit I am much more familiar with British colonial history, than that of other nations, and i acknowledge that they probably differ widely. Your knowledge of history is also excellent and i greatly admire (and enjoy) it.

    That said, a detailed description of a whip used by the Spanish is hardly irrefutable proof that colonialism is bad. The stories you tell are of course shameful, but they also, as I think Ivo points out rather well, have to be balanced with the schools, hospitals, sanitation, transport infrastructure, Industrial development, advanced agriculture and farming methods etc that also made up colonialism.

    If i write a descriptive piece about the whips the Romans used when they dipped ropes into broken glass, or i describe how they crucified people, does that mean they weren’t responsible for the massive strides forward taken by European (in my case British) society. The British were conquered by force, but ultimately it had a massively positive impact upon British history and development, and with hindsight you would struggle to argue that it was not, on the whole, a good thing.

    I would argue exactly the same with colonialism. It had many faults, excesses and abuses, but ultimately the African continent and its’ peoples are better of because of it.

  • Spike Kunene

    This is what really gets on my tits. Ivo would never write a piece debating the merits of the Holocaust.

    But we, Black people, are expected to participate or entertain this insensitive debate about whether the brutal murder, exploitation and humiliation of millions of Black people could have possibly been
    a good idea. This is effing insane.

    If anyone ever dared to write a satirical piece
    on the Holocaust or commend the work of the Third Reich, they would be fired. And rightly so.
    But I think the same should apply to anyone trying to endorse, colonialism, a system that paved the way for crimes against humanity to be carried out on millions of innocent people.

    Stop the hypocrisy.

  • Oldfox

    @amused reader,

    The brutal and often savage excesses of the Romans ended over 1400 years ago. Can you name any direct ancestor of yours who was brutally treated by the Romans?
    You probably can’t.

    Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe went through a period called the Dark Ages which lasted at least 500 years. So maybe Roman rule did not prepare the Europeans for the time when the Romans would no longer rule.

    Sweden was never conquered by the Romans. In several respects, Sweden is more successful than the UK.
    Would Sweden have been more successful today, had it been conquered by the ancient Romans? Or would Sweden be less successful than it is today?

    The events in SA from the late 19th Century or early 20th century are relatively recent.
    China is still demanding an apology from the Japanese for the Rape of Nanking in 1937, because many Chinese survivors are still alive today.
    Many Afrikaners bore a grudge against the British more than 70 years after the end of the Anglo Boer war.

  • Sam

    Colonialism has always been a necessary vector of civilisation and cultural advancement. Anyone who denies this has only studied the history of the past 60 years – and then “history” as written by ideologues, not historians. Ask anyone who rants about colonialism about history before the Second World War and chances are that you’ll get a blank look … and a flood of Marxist or postmodernist nonsense.

    Britain was colonised at least six times (two waves of Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans), and this was typical of all of Western Europe. It could be argued that without this constant process of cultural enrichment and assimilation, Britain would never have become a great power — and a civilising force in its turn.

    It would have been nice if civilisation could have spread by gentler means, just as it would have been nice if evolution could have proceeded without the harshness of natural selection. But this is unfortunately not how it happened (or could have happened).

    The only mistake that the great colonial powers (especially Britain) made, was to withdraw too soon. If colonialism had been phased out over, say, forty or fifty years, Africa might now have been a tranquil and prosperous continent. We might have been spared the blustering gang of murderous thieves that stripped the continent bare in the name of liberation.

    Of course, there were the exceptions – such as Belgian colonialism, which was nothing more than greedy exploitation. But people like Joseph Conrad who alerted the world to this, are now being accused of racism by black “intellectuals”. Analyse the semantics, and it becomes clear that “racism” is simply a synonym for “white”.

  • Oldfox

    A comparison between the “benefits” of communism and colonialism would be in order here.

    Russia prior to the 1917 revolution, was backward compared to West European countries. With serfdom in Russia only abolished in 1861, industrial development and urbanization had been held back compared to Western Europe, as the Russian nobility found it convenient to use serfs to produce agricultural surpluses for the lucrative export market (which was Western Europe).
    “Russia consisted mainly of poor farming peasants, with 1.5% of the population owning 25% of the land.”
    “In one 1904 survey, it was found that an average of sixteen people shared each apartment in St. Petersburg, with six people per room. There was also no running water, and piles of human waste were a threat to the health of the workers.” (source Wikipedia)
    These and other miserable conditions, together with the loss of 5 million soldiers during WW1, were all a fertile ground for the October 1917 Revolution.

    A short 40 years later, Russia was a superpower with ICBMs, anti-aircraft missiles, hydrogen bombs, had launched a satellite, had vast heavy industries etc. A few years thereafter, Russian put astronauts into orbit, had world leading technology for large helicopters, hydrofoil boats, jet fighters… Literacy was very high, education universal, and medical care available to perhaps all urban residents.
    Can we conclude from this, that communism benefited the Russians?

    Well, anyone who claims colonialism benefited Black Africa, should be consistent and say communism must have benefited Russia.

    Here is a harder question. Could Russia not have benefited more, from a non communist transformation from the relatively weak and backward nation it was into a developed (in many respects) nation?
    The answer is a definite yes. (although I would concede that diehard Leftwingers would vehemently dispute this).
    Japan transformed from an ancient feudal empire into a modern industrial power within 50 years, without resorting to communism.

    Back to Black Africa.
    Were some black Africans better off after colonialism than before the conquest by Europeans and colonial rule? Yes.

    Were all black Africans better off?
    This is debatable. The Herero would say they were worse off, with as many as three quarters of the Herero population slaughtered by the Germans , and the survivors were further subjected to traumatic treatment, and it takes a generation of two to overcome such an experience.
    The arbitrary country borders laid the grounds for many conflicts. In some countries such as Rwanda (a former Belgian colony) some historians claim that the ethnic conflict since independence can be directly attributed to colonial rule. See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwanda
    Many blacks, in many African countries would say they are still experiencing negative effects of the colonial era.

    Could blacks have progressed more without colonialism?
    For at least some nations/tribes the answer is mostly probably yes.
    The Ashanti of Ghana were one of the most advanced of the precolonial black nations in Africa. They had contact with Europeans before they were conquered by the British. When they realized the British was set on conquering them, the Ashanti hired officers of the Prussian army, then the finest army in Europe, to train them in modern warfare so that they could hold out against the British. As in much of history, might won over right and the Ghanaians were conquered.

    With blacks from Congo and Angola studying in Portugal as early as the 15th Century, mostly as missionaries or teachers, blacks would definitely have modernized and progressed without the later, brutal periods of colonialism.
    Later, as more colonialists settled in colonies, and as colonial armies grew more powerful, conditions became harsher. Blacks were forced to work, sometimes by the imposition of a poll tax or hut tax (the direct cause of the Bambata Rebellion in Zululand) in British colonies, and sometimes by unpaid forced labour. Belgians used forced labour in the Congo right until independence, and the Portuguese, if I’m not mistaken, used forced labour in Mozambique and Angola until the 1970s.
    I read quite a few books on the anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique and Angola. One book had a shocking photo of two long thin poles on either side of a farm gate. On top of each pole, was a decapitated human head. The caption under the photo said this was a warning of what would happen to “cheeky” blacks at this farm. Was this the work of a brutal farmer of Portuguese descent? Or a clever anti colonial propaganda photo by the MPLA (the most highly organized liberation movement in Africa)? I don’t know.
    What I do know, is that Holden Roberto’s FNLA (later supported by the USA) brutally massacred some whites in the early 1960s in Northern Angola. Whites then went on the rampage in the slums of Luanda, killing some 3000 blacks. Blacks who showed signs of modernity (e.g. wore glasses, had a sewing machine, books) were singled out for slaughter.

    As far as South Africa goes, I need to study more history before making many more statements about the colonial experience. I would like to point out one paragraph of the only comprehensive history book I’ve read on SA (Edward Roux’s Time Longer than Rope) in which black churches warned in the 1930s that the breakup of black family life resulting from the migrant labour system would have serious consequences for society generations later.

  • BenzoL

    For a detailed description of the Dutch behaviour in the East Indies (now Indonesia) read “Max Havelaar” written by Multatuli (1860).
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multatuli)

    Wars, occupations, colonialism has taken place all over the world over millennia and has never been nice. Some population groups have all but disappeared in the process, some amalgamated, some came out stronger. In this aspect, men differ not much from the animal kingdom in its struggle for survival. I guess that Africans, amongst each other, were not much different from Europeans. Consider it history, some benefited, some did not. Trying to give historical events a moral or economical judgement based on today’s values is an exercise in futility. Trying to do “what if’s” or “what if not’s” of past events could create jobs for millions of people and require a battery of super computers to run the permutations. And then what…?? The exercise could be fun for many, but the results would contribute very little to the well being of world population.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    @Spike Kunene: This is what gets on my tits. People who don’t read a word you write, and then jump down your throat with sanctimonious accusations, self-righteous indignation and gratuitous insults.

    I explicitly denounced the evils committed during the colonial era. Did you read that part? I have frequently and consistently denounced racism, in everything I’ve ever written. Did you read any of that?

    I specifically presented this piece as the debate I think (perhaps mistakenly) Bullard was trying to stir. I used the word “stir” deliberately. Nobody said you’re expected to participate. I’d prefer you didn’t, because you’re just spraying everyone with flecks of foam, which is disagreeable.

    Besides, if it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it, you appear to fall woefully short of such intellectual sophistication. Don’t feel bad. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. Unless eugenics makes a surprise comeback.

    You characterise an entire epoch of history as nothing more than murder, exploitation and humiliation of blacks, which suggests there’s only space for a victim complex in your hate-filled mind. History is rather more complex than that. Postulating alternative histories, which didn’t happen, and therefore cannot be tested against experience, even more so. When the Romans conquered Britain, they murdered, raped, pillaged and subjugated as far as they went. Do you hear anyone saying that the Roman Empire was nothing more than murder, exploitation and humiliation? When someone says bathing or roads or aqueducts or law were pretty good ideas, is that the same as saying slavery or throwing people to the lions for public amusement is a pretty good idea? When someone points out that World War II was instrumental in the development of computers, jet propulsion, nuclear power, penicillin, space exploration and teflon pans, do you consider that equivalent to saying nothing bad happened?

    It would appear so. In contrast to, for example, OldFox — who is able to present arguments in disagreement using facts, examples and logical reasoning — complex situations aren’t your strong suit, are they?

    As for hypocrisy, you might want to consider not tarring entire populations or histories with the same brush. That’s exactly what white racists do when they cite examples of murder, rape, corruption, maladministration or tyranny, to denounce blacks as uncivilised heathens. If you object to such racism, you might want to reconsider your own simplistic grudges and unthinking prejudices.

    Why I bother, I don’t know. Despite the effort I put into them, I’d be very surprised (albeit pleasantly) if these words aren’t wasted on you.

    Thankfully, this conversation is over. I’m afraid you have just forfeited the debate by virtue of Godwin’s Law.

    Regular service can now resume.

  • Spike Kunene

    @Ivo

    “Nazi analogies in humanitarianism and foreign policy aren’t intended to cheapen Nazism and the Holocaust. They’re meant to put underreported, ugly stories into a frame that everyone immediately understands.” Reason Magazine, “It’s time to repeal Godwin’s Law”

    Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t engage in your intellectually sophisticated debates that are beyond the reach of my hate-filled mind. If you want to engage in insensitive topics, by all means buddy, be my guest. All I’m saying is there are bunch of people like me who think you should be very careful about bringing up topics like this (be it you or David Bullard).

    You see, unlike most South Africans I will not deny that I am racist. I mean, that kind of stuff tends to happen when you’ve spent half your life in a country that deprived you, your parents and most of the people around you of their most basic human rights. You see, this kind of treatment tends to make the recipient resentful and bitter. You become sensitive towards anything or anyone who tries to argue the merits of a system that primarily led to the subjugation of Black people.

    But look, I might be talking out my ass. Maybe I should just shut up and stop playing the victim like you said. Maybe I need to be more thankful for being able to wear clothes and have a cellphone.

    Maybe I should build a big shrine in honour of colonialism and do cartwheels around it everyday. Maybe I need to be grateful for being able to type on my mac and convey my sanctimonious accusations and gratuitous insults on your blog. I don’t know, you tell me oh wise one?

  • Spike Kunene

    And anyone that grew up under apartheid that claims not to be racist is simply lying to themselves, be they black or white.

  • Jon

    The British Empire WAS God’s gift to the world.

    Wasn’t it?

  • Oldfox

    Jon,

    Here are China’s contributions to civilization, many of which were used by the British in conquering tribes and nations around the world.
    China was self sufficient, believed other nations were inferior and thus had no desire to colonise (excluding Tibet, which was ruled by China hundreds of years ago)

    Agricultural
    •Row Cultivation of crops and intensive hoeing
    •The Iron Plow
    •Efficient Horse Harness – trace; collar
    •The Rotary Winnowing Fan
    •The multi-tube (‘modern’) seed drill

    Astronomy & Cartography
    •Recognition of sunspots as solar phenomena
    •Quantitative cartography
    •Discovery of the Solar Wind
    •The Mercator map-projection
    •(Mounted) Equatorial astronomical instruments

    Engineering
    •Spouting bowls and standing waves
    •Cast iron
    •The double-acting piston bellows: air, liquid
    •The Crank handle
    •The ‘Cardan suspension’, or gimbals
    •Manufacture of steel from cast iron
    •Deep drilling for natural gas
    •The belt drive (or driving-belt)
    •Water Power
    •The chain pump
    •The Suspension Bridge
    •The first cybernetic machine
    •Essentials of the steam engine
    •’Magic Mirrors’
    •The ‘Siemens’ steel process
    •The segmental arch bridge
    •The chain-drive
    •Underwater salvage operations

    Domestic & Industrial Technology
    •Lacquer: the first plastic
    •Strong beer (sake)
    •Petroleum and natural gas as fuel
    •Paper
    •The Wheelbarrow
    •Sliding Calipers
    •The magic lantern
    •The fishing reel
    •The Stirrup
    •Porcelain
    •Biological pest control
    •The umbrella
    •Matches
    •Chess
    •Brandy and whisky
    •The mechanical clock
    •Printing – block printing; movable type
    •Playing-cards
    •Paper money
    •’Permanent’ lamps
    •The spinning-wheel

    Medicine & Health
    •Circulation of the blood
    •Circadian rhythms in the human body
    •The science of endocrinology
    •Deficiency diseases
    •Diabetes discovered by urine analysis
    •Use of thyroid hormone
    •Immunology – inoculation against smallpox

    Mathematics
    •The decimal system
    •A place for 0
    •Negative numbers
    •Extraction of higher roots and solutions of higher numerical equations
    •Decimal fractions
    •Using algebra in geometry
    •A refined value of pi
    •’Pascal’s’ triangle of binomial coefficients

    Magnetism
    •The first compass
    •Dial and pointer devices
    •Magnetic declination of the Earth’s magnetic field
    •Magnetic remanence and induction
    The Physical Sciences
    •Geobotanical prospecting
    •The First Law of Motion
    •The hexagonal structure of snowflakes
    •The seismograph
    •Spontaneous combustion
    •’Modern’ geology
    •Phosphorescent paint

    Transport & Exploration
    •The kite
    •Manned flight with kites
    •The first relief maps
    •The first contour transport canal
    •The parachute
    •Miniature hot-air balloons
    •The rudder
    •Masts and sailing: Batten sails – staggered masts; Multiple masts – Fore and aft rigs; Leeboards; Watertight compartments in ships
    •The helicopter rotor and the propeller
    •The paddlewheel boat
    •Land sailing
    •The canal pound-lock

    Sound & Music
    •The large tuned bell
    •Tuned drums
    •Hermetically sealed research laboratories
    •The first understanding of musical timbre
    •Equal temperament in music

    Warfare
    •Chemical warfare: poison gas, smoke bombs and tear gas
    •The crossbow
    •Gunpowder
    •The flame-thrower
    •Flares and fireworks
    •Soft bombs and grenades
    •Metal-cased bombs
    •Land mines
    •Sea mines
    •The rocket
    •Mutli-staged rockets
    •Guns, cannons, and mortars – fire lance; true gun
    (source:www.computersmiths.com/chineseinvention/westdebt.htm )

    The above list is by no means complete. Paper, toilet paper, the printing press with movable typeand ice cream are among the many other Chinese inventions.

  • Cool Down

    Good heavens people,what are we talking about.

    Let us try and figure out how many people were
    really effected by the colonisation in South
    Africa.Bear with me on this one because I am
    going back in time from 2008 to 1860.

    Population mid 2007 in M. % +/-

    Blacks. 38,079 ….. 79.6%
    Whites. 4,352 ….. 9.1%
    Coloureds4,245 ….. 8.9%
    Asians 1,173 ….. 2.5%
    Total 47.850

    Mid 1975
    Black. 19,412 ….. 76.12%
    White. 3,451 ….. 9.61%
    coloureds.2,018 ….. 7.91%
    Asians. 0.620 ….. 2.43%
    Total 25,501

    Now at this stage the purist under you might say
    hang on, it does not add up. Well these stats are
    not meant to be precise but merely serve as indicators and to establish a trend.

    From the above it is clear that the white population hovered around the 10% and this is good
    enough for what follows.

    !950

    Total population. 13,310M
    Whites +/- 1,331M

    1925.

    Total population 7,409M

    Whites +/- 0.741M

    1900

    Total population 5,014M

    Whites +/- .5014M

    1860

    Total population 1,134m

    Whites +/- 0,1134.

    In 1652 there were 90 settlers people at the Cape
    of Good Hope and this included servants.
    In 1795 there were 16000 settlers including
    servants plus 16839 slaves, for a total population
    of 32,839. The white population increased by the
    arrival of the 1820 settlers.

    The discovery of diamonds 1868 and the the discovery of gold 1886 undoubtedly led to
    the rapid increase in population from 1860 onwards and also to the Anglo-Boer wars, during which the Afrikaners totalled just over 500 000.

    How highly priced gold and diamonds were is
    clear from the fact that the British committed
    close to 500 000 solders to oppress the Boers.
    This is what I call overkill.

    From the aforegoing it is clear that South Africa
    was a sparsely populated country and hence the
    allegations that the early settlers murdered millions and stole the land from the indigenous
    people does in my opinion not fly, because there
    were no millions of people to steal from and
    murder.

    If the millions were killed le us say from
    1900 this would have been recorded by historians
    and we would be able to visit those graves.
    Strange that they are not to be found but those
    who died in the concentration camps under British
    rule are.

    So how bad were the indigenous people effected
    by colonisation. I leave it up to you.

  • Ariel

    Oldfox i’m sure the fact that Mongolia, Vietnam, Korea and other nations were part of the Chinese empire at some point in time is irrelevant.

  • Ariel

    May not have actually been part of China but were certainly dominated by it.

  • Oldfox

    Ariel,

    You are correct. I should have checked first. Four parts of Korea came under Chinese control in 108BC. By 75BC, three were back under Korean control, and the last came under Korean control in 313 AD.

    Various tribes in what is now Vietnam were conquered by the Chinese starting in 207BC, and by 111BC, the entire area had been consolidated into one territory. Vietnam gained independence in 938AD until the French conquest in mid 19th century.

  • Oldfox

    Bullard: an apology to my readers and friends. Posted to the web on: 18 April 2008 http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/opinion.aspx?ID=BD4A751187
    (for the satirical article Uncolonised Africa wouldn’t know what it was missing)

  • amused reader

    @ Spike

    (been away hence delay in reply)

    The difference between the holocaust and colonisation is that during the holocaust 6m innocent people were murdered by a government who’s express purpose was to eradicate them from the face of the earth.

    Is is ridiculous (but hasn’t stopped you none the less) to equate this with a process where there was no desire to exterminate a race or races, no mass murder of the African people, and the colonial powers actually increased the life expectancy, health, wealth and literacy rates of the people.

    Even with Apartheid….. What about if Hitler had handed over portions of the land to the Jewish people, built them schools and hospitals, raised taxes from the German people and paid it to the Jews (and didn’t gas or kill them at all). Would it still be called the holocaust?

    I know Ivo has already pointed most of this out to you, but just in case!

  • Oldfox

    amused reader ,

    There was deliberate mass murder of the Herero and Nama in German South West Africa.

    “In August 1904, the “German general Lothar von Trotha finally defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them and their families into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. In October, the Nama also took up arms against the Germans and were dealt with in a similar fashion. In total, between 24,000 and 65,000 Herero (all values are estimate, 50% to 70% of the total Herero population), and 10,000 Nama (50% of the total Nama population) perished. Two characteristics of the genocide were death by starvation and the poisoning of wells used by the Herero and Nama populations that were trapped in the Namib Desert.” Source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_Genocide

  • Oldfox

    amused reader ,

    During the Maji Maji revolt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maji_Maji_Rebellion in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) Germans applied a scorched earth policy to an area larger than Germany. Total no. of blacks killed or starved to death is unknown, but the upper limit is 200 000 to 300 000.

    An article on this is at URL http://www.ippmedia.com/ipp/guardian/2006/02/28/61023.html

  • Anton Schmidt

    I don’t think we need to go complicated historical arguments and deep philosophy about this Bullard thing: is it factually correct or not? Did Africa’s indigenous develop to the extent that the world around them did, or did it, after all is said and done, take Europeans to come here and introduce civilization? Did everything deteriorate back to where it was before they interfered when they left? Can Africa be saved fromm itself?

    We all know the answers, it’s not necessary to intellectualize about them